Amish country…through a writer’s eye.

imageI’ve just returned from Amish country and boy, are my eyes tired! I mean to say they just about leapt out of my head at the amazing sights abundant in Holmes County, Ohio. Of course, since I am a writer, I viewed the panorama unfolding around me through the writer’s lens. Particularly, I wanted to understand why Amish fiction is so amazingly popular in the inspirational market. Have you noticed? Look at any Christian fiction bookshelf and you’ll find dozens of titles with bonneted people on the cover. Wanda Brunstetter, Bev Lewis, and others have sold millions of copies. Why? What’s the draw, I wanted to know? Here’s the answer.

1. Good stories have to have external conflict. There is no greater external conflict than a community trying to live set apart in a world that intrudes on them at every turn. Amish believe they must not be conformed to modern standards, yet they exist in a world where they are regulated by a government in which they do not participate. They need tourist dollars to support their large families, yet they do not wish to be photographed, or be exposed to conduits such as cell phones, television, cars or the internet. Extending one hand out to tourism, while turning their faces away from the lifestyles of their visitors is a hotbed of conflict, and great fodder for a story.

2. Good stories echo the emotional needs of the reader. Why do so many love Amish fiction? Because in some way, we all long for a simpler time. We worry that our dependence on technology has distanced us from a meaningful relationship with God and each other. We yearn for that pure, divine communication that we struggle to discern in our busy world. During a conversation with an Amish woman in her home, I was struck by the fact that they do not listen to music, there is no cell phone beeping, or even the sound of traffic on their lonely graveled road. In that quiet space, can they hear God more clearly? It’s a question we can explore in the pages of a book.

Have you ever visited Amish country or read Amish fiction? What do you think would appeal to you about the culture? Giving away a double prize on Friday!

8 responses to this post.

  1. I visited Amish Country in Lancaster, PA, many, many years ago a couple of times to shop at some type of outlet Mall if I remember correctly, and to eat a meal. I remember the food tasted fresh, and everything was good (with the exception of some under-cooked chicken which I distinctly remember). I haven’t read any Amish fiction yet, but I do currently own one Amish cozy that I’m sure I’ll get around to reading. I have noticed the popularity of Amish fiction. While I believe I understand their intentions for living the way they do, the culture doesn’t particularly appeal to me. I believe that Christians can be “no part of the world” without isolating themselves. Jesus did it, and he taught his followers how to do it. The only way we can help others is to exist among them and help them to put on the “new personality”, just as we strive to do each and every day. That’s just my personal opinion.

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  2. Posted by Shanda on July 28, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    I am interested in their customs. I recently read a doctor’s account of his time among the Amish. Fascinating. I have yet to read any of the Amish romance books. Not drawn to that subgenre yet. I did love John Wayne in Angel and the Bad Man. 🙂

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  3. Posted by Jackie Wisherd on July 28, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    When I was in college my sister and I went to a sorority convention in Reading, Pa and we visited the Amish country. It was very interring. I have also read several books set in the Amish country, most recently, Linda Castillo’s book Her Last Breath . A good story.

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  4. You have put your finger on two good reasons Amish fiction is so popular. Relating to the second one, it takes a skilled writer to draw out those nuances of desire for quiet connection to God versus our desire to be where the action is.

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